In Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgment Peter Elbow says that “good writing teachers like student writing” and “good teachers see what is only potentially good; they get a kick out of mere possibility” when looking at student writing (Elbow 406). As a teacher I believe that this is the core of what it is to be a teacher. As a teacher, much of my time is spent responding to my students’ needs and their writing but It is important that while I may be focused on recursive writing and genre usage in my day to day pedagogy I always keep in mind that my students are still developing as writers and it is my job to foster their growth instead of viciously stamping out only the inadequate parts of their writing. I should take not of the possibility hey represent as new writers. I should encourage them, in my written responses and our discussions in class, to pursue the things they are good at – even while highlighting where their work fails to express their ideas and can be improved. This means that my pedagogy should always be sure to point out where students succeed as much as where they fail.
On a more technical level I believe that it is important for me to teach my students two things above all in my composition classroom. They need to gain an understanding of the writing process as recursive and they need to learn about the ways that genre functions in the texts they read and write. In order to foster such learning, I plan to focus on teaching what Anne Wysocki describes as and understanding of genre through teaching “a better integration of form and content and of text with context” (Wysocki 582). By creating lessons which focus on teaching a dialectical understanding of writing (studying where and how form and content influence each other as well as where a text's context can define these things) I plan to help students to develop an ability to understand how texts are written and how a recursive writing process incorporates this dialectal process into their own writing. As such, I will ask students to analyze multiple texts (which bend genre through alphanumeric and visual techniques) with an eye toward how each text uses the genres it chooses. Students should be instructed on how to read genre in other texts before being expected to incorporate those moves into their own writing. As the semester moves forward students will be able to take small writing tasks that asked them to analyze texts and apply what they have observed and learned to their own writing.
To show students a writing process that is continual and developmental I will expect them to transition ideas from each project to the next with multiple steps of revision in between. Early low stakes writing will provide the generation of content which can become the focus for longer, more polished, projects which will ask that they perform academic research – teaching them to write in the academic genre – as well as shifting their work into multiple genres for a final project. As students shift from one genre to the next a proposal and drafting review process will ask them to reflect on what they have said before, how it was defined by the genre they were working in, and how shifting to their new chosen genres might change that.
Much of my own work has been steeped in a dialectical understanding of the form-content relationship as discussed in Fredrick Jameson’s Marxism and Form. While I will avoid asking student to directly tackle such a text I cannot avoid the influence that this work has had on my own scholarship and how I conceive of writing. In his book, Jameson says that “change is essentially a function of content seeking its adequate expression in form” and “form is itself but the working out of content in the realm of the superstructure” (Jameson 327-29). I hope that I can help my students to understand some of this idea as they shift their work into new genres. By asking them to not only reflect on the work they do but stretch and shape it into new a new form, thereby changing their content, they will be acting out the concept that Jameson discusses. A final portfolio assignment will shift the students’ work into yet another new form at the end of the semester – putting all their work in conversation with itself – and allowing them a final reflective moment for the class. This reflection, an understanding of genre, and the ability to shift their work between genres effectively is at the core of my conception of teaching.
Works Cited Edit
Elbow, Peter. “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting out Three Forms of Judgment.” College English, vol. 55, no. 2, 1993, p. 187., doi:10.2307/378503.
Jameson, Fredric. Marxism and Form; Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature. Princeton, N.J. Princeton UP, 1972. Print.
Wysocki, Anne. “THE MULTIPLE MEDIA OF TEXTS How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media.” What Writing Does and How It Does It: an Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices, by Charles Bazerman, Erlbaum, 2009, pp. 123–163.